Margot Berwin’s Chapter 7 of Irresistible

Apr 13, 2016 by

Margot Berwin’s Chapter 7 of Irresistible

Serialized Novel

That evening found Martine walking down the street hand in hand with her best friend Lisette Ray. The hand holding of Lisette Ray was one of the great comforts of her life. Although she was no longer a child, she could not give up the soft, smooth skin of Lisette’s hand. Or the way it fit so perfectly into her own. Not too big like a man’s hand and not too small like a child’s.

She never grew tired of Lisette Ray’s face, either. Forever in love with her pink skin, her blue eyes, and her red mouth. All the colors so perfectly matched. Her own face with its brown eyes, white skin, and pale lips was as devoid of color as Lisette Ray’s was colourful.

For as far back as Martine could remember, Lisette had changed her long, shiny, curly hair from red to black and back again depending on her lover. Black for artists. Red for lawyers and advertising executives. Red was more acceptable. Closer to blonde. On that night it was jet black.

She wore a tiny black leather jacket over a tight lime green dress with little pictures of Elvis all over it, and Maryjanes. Martine loved to look at her best friend’s small feet all wrapped up in the little round shoes of their childhood.

And of course there were her eyes. Most vulnerable. Lisette had had a boyfriend once who said they looked reticent. She knew he liked that about her. She knew it wasn’t true. She let him keep the thought. She was like that, Lisette Ray. She never tried to change a mind and she never had to prove herself right. If she was right, she knew it, and that was enough for her.

It was this very single-mindedness that had helped to create the schoolgirl friendship with Martine. Lisette had found in her an exotic, while the other children, as well as the teachers, had found in her an unknowable stranger.

Martine is maybe ten or twelve and the mother is already gone. When she dresses to go to school she is allowed to wear whatever she desires. No, not allowed, there is no one around in the morning when she dresses to allow or disallow, she simply wears whatever she desires. She shows up at school with thin white cotton shirts with round elastic necklines pulled down over her shoulders then covered with the long thick wavy brown hair down to her hips. The eyes of the female teachers say, “messy, tactless, disgraceful.” The eyes of the male teachers say, “come early, before the start of the school day if you want help with your mathematics.”

So there it was again, desirable, shameful, just as it had always been. Martine recognized the fact, had always recognized the fact, that her clothes, her hair, herself, were both liked and disliked, enjoyable and disturbing all at the same time. It had always been that way for her and it was the same when she went to school. Until she met Lisette Ray.

Lisette had loved her, every part of her, and had protected her as best she could from the taunts and insults of the other children at school.

“Your hair needs to be cut,” they said, “it shouldn‘t go past your waist,” they said, all the while circling around her and running their hands over its dark shiny surface.

Lisette never mentioned Martine’s looks, her beautiful hair, her long legs, or her adult clothes. They were simply children together. Holding hands, hoping to be picked for the same soccer team, trying to make their snack time pretzel rods last the longest in the class, and choosing their future husbands from the various assortment of still short boys with braces and bad skin impending. They were best friends.

“Tell me everything about him. Every single thing,” said Lisette Ray pulling Martine along to their favorite bar.

“We had sex,” said Martine out of breath from running along side Lisette who although two inches shorter than herself, was much less meandering, with a walk as pragmatic as her personality.

“You had sex? You said you weren’t go to do that on the first night anymore.”

“I know, but I did,” she said wanting to elaborate but unable to catch her breath.

“You smoke too much you know. You stopped working and right away you started smoking again,” said Lisette, not liking the tone of her own voice but unable to change it.

“I like smoking. It makes me feel like I’m not working. Like I’m not a working person. Like I’m the kind of person who lies in bed all day and stares out the window and eats breakfast at noon and remembers old lovers and smokes.”

“Is that the kind of person you want to be?”

“I don’t know if I want to be that person. But I feel like that person,” She said looking sideways at Lisette as they made their way to their favorite bar.

In truth Martine had never been so close to falling off. Falling out. Falling down and away.

It had not always been that way. She used to work. She even had a good job once, a steady job designing sweaters for a woman’s clothing company.

The money had been good and she had saved as much of it as she could for the day she would be able to stop working and design her own clothes full time. That was over a year ago, and most of the money was gone, but still she could not imagine going back to a job. All that coming and going, back and forth, and forth and back, to and from, was like having a second job. Just the thought of the going back and forth tired her, not even counting the work part of the day.

So, the two were on their way to Ely’s on Chrystie Street. It was a good bar with just the type of people that both of them liked. Artists. Eurotrash. Long legged sophisticated black boys. A suit or two who understood how rich they looked in a dive like that. Mostly men. Men with long lean starving artist bodies. With pants and shoes covered with paint and eyes that could find beauty in anything.

They loved it there, Lisette and Martine. Especially the bathrooms. Big and well lit, but not pretty, so they were.

There was a regulation sized pool table in the back and a long S shaped bar in the front with high yellow stools to sit on.

But the best part was the artwork on the walls. It changed every month bringing with it a new group of men with nice lean, long, young, starving artist bodies.

Strolling through the packed front room, Lisette Ray spotted a beautiful blonde, well built, outdoorsy looking boy getting up from his seat.

“Just your type,” Martine laughed.

“Don’t you say a word,” said Lisette who just a few weeks earlier had had the unfortunate experience of seeing an old boyfriend at Ely’s with his nipple attached to a chain that was attached to the nipple of another man.

She’d spent the following four days getting tested for every conceivable illness and vowed off of her predilection for thinly built feminine looking boys.

“Go and get us that seat,” she said to Martine, “I’ll get the drinks.”

Martine ran over, edged in behind the boy and sat down as soon as he stood up.

He turned around. “What are you doing?”

“Sitting down.”

“I was just going to the bathroom,” he said pointing a finger like a gun towards the men’s room. “That’s my jacket on the back of the chair.”

“And you expected your seat to be here when you got back? Empty and waiting for you? Like a good woman?”

“What? What are you talking about? Look, you want the seat, take the seat.”

“It’s really my friend who wants the seat,” Martine said pointing at Lisette Ray.

“Okay,” he said looking Martine up and down from her head to her toes. “I’ll give her the seat if you come with me to have a cigarette. How’s that? Walk with me to the bathroom and have a smoke with me in there.”

Holding up her index finger and mouthing ‘one minute’ to Lisette Ray, Martine walked with the boy across the room and into the bathroom. She closed the door behind them.

“Come over here and look down into the bowl,” she said.

He looked into the water.

“What do you see?”

“I don’t see anything.”

“Look again.”

“I don’t know. What am I looking at? A shadow?”

“Just any shadow?”

“My shadow I guess.”

“Your reflection perhaps?”

He laughed and she was surprised that he had understood her.

They shared a cigarette in the bathroom covered with undecipherable black graffiti and no toilet paper. The boy sat down on the toilet which was just a bowl without a seat or a lid, while Martine rested her elbows along the edges of the sink and raised her head upward to blow cigarette smoke toward the ceiling.

“Tell me something about yourself,” she said. “Are you seeing anyone? Is she out there now?”

“No, I’m not seeing anyone right now. I did have a girlfriend once though. Pretty recently actually. We were together for three years before she left. It was my longest relationship”


“Why what?”

“Why did she leave?”

“Well, I guess since I’ve had six drinks already, I can tell you why. She left me for a guy who wants to be a guy. How’s that for telling you something about myself?”

“What do you want to be,” asked Martine.

“I’m not sure yet. I want to be a guy. I mean I am a guy, obviously, and I know that, but men who want to be women fascinate me. Are you repulsed yet?”

Lisette can really pick em’ thought Martine.

“Fascinated by what,” she asked.

“By all the trouble they go through just to be something. They put as much time into becoming a woman as someone might put into becoming a doctor let’s say or even an astronaut. Do you know anything about it?”

Martine shook her head.

“They start out doing years of hormones just to see if they’re sure that they like feeling like the opposite sex. And that’s after years of psychotherapy. And then if they do like it and they are psychologically ready, then they start to get the operations. It’s this incredibly slow process of total transformation that requires a kind of dedication that I admire.”

“They really know what they want.”

“Yes, that’s it exactly. They’re so sure of something that they’re willing to go to this extreme for it and they can never go back to who they were before so they’ve got to be totally sure.”

“How did you tell her, your girlfriend?”

“I bought a book on the subject and she saw it on the bookshelf even though I had it turned so that the title was facing toward the back wall.”

“So you made it obvious.”

“She walked out the door and she never called and she never came back. After three years of living with me, she never even asked why I had the book in our home in the first place. She took the book from the shelf and put it on the coffee table, no note, no nothing, and she picked up, and she left. That’s the last I heard from her. Not one word.”

“Like she was looking for a reason to leave anyway?”


“You’re not really like Narcissus at all, are you?”

“No. My reflection isn’t the one I want to see. But don’t get me wrong, I do love women you know. I don’t mind so much being a man when I’m with a woman. You see when a woman looks at me, if she loves me, I can look into her face and see my own self in her.”

“You mean you can see yourself as a woman?”

“Yes, I can see myself as a woman. And the women who love me or even just like me a lot, they give me that as a gift.”

“That is a great gift. Do they know they’re giving it to you?”

“See that’s the tricky part. They usually don’t and if I tell them it scares them and they run away immediately, but if I don’t tell them it’s not as complete a feeling for me. Some important part is missing.”

“The acceptance.”

“Yes, the acceptance.”

“Do you ever get jealous when you’re with a woman, of her getting to be a woman and your not getting to be one?

“I used to. But now I just figure it’s the luck of the draw, you know. Nobody’s fault really. But yeah, I guess I still do from time to time. I get mad too. Women don’t know what power they have. If I were a woman I’d really know how to make use of it.”

“What do you remember most about your old girlfriend?”

“Her disgust.”

“That’s a good memory. It makes her leaving not so bad.”

He smiled at Martine.

“Thanks for putting it that way. And now, you have to tell me something special about yourself, something really juicy, and you’re not leaving this bathroom until you do.”

Martine blew more cigarette smoke up at the ceiling.

“Okay. Here’s one. I just spent the night with a man who likes to slap me across the face.”

“Wow. Okay. That’s a good one. Just give me a minute and I can tell you something about him.”

Martine put her cigarette out on her face on the mirror and immediately lit another.

“Okay, I’ve got it. Remember what we said about me liking my reflection in the face of the women who care about me? Well, he is the exact opposite of me. He looks into your face and he hates his reflection so much that he has to slap your face like he’s slapping his own face, in your face.


“Maybe because he can’t stand his softer, more vulnerable side, the side that women represent to him? The side they bring out in him. Possible?

“Maybe, I don’t know enough about him.”

“Are you going to see him again?”



“For the same reason that you respect guys who want to be women.”

“You respect this guy because he knows that he wants to slap you across the face and he steps right up and does it. He knows what he wants and he doesn’t hesitate to take it.”

“Exactly. And what he wants right now is me. It’s hard not to see someone again who seems so sure of both of us. For both of us. It’s like he knows something about us and I need to find out what it is before I can agree or disagree with it.”

He took the cigarette out of her hand and dropped it into the toilet. It hissed at them.

“Let’s get out of this bathroom before they bang the door down.”

He stood behind her and held the bathroom door open for her as if they were walking out of a fancy restaurant.

“I’ll see you later.”

He walked over to the bar and Martine walked back across the room and sat down next to Lisette Ray.

“Okay,” said Lisette, “I’ve sat here doing nothing while you’ve smoked four cigarettes, had one drink, and a conversation with a very handsome man in a bathroom who was supposed to be for me. Are you ready to tell me about the artist now?”

This was always a dangerous moment for Martine. She loved to tell stories. The best stories possible. Often, for the sake of the listener, she would leave out the details that would turn a story from entertaining to grim.

On that evening talking to Lisette Ray, she would leave out the detail that the artist had slapped her across the face.

She simply did not know how to frame it with the right words. The words that would make it seem exciting and not scary.

There was a fine line, she knew, between excitement and fear. And she knew that she had crossed it on that first night with the artist. And she knew that because Lisette would worry, she could not tell her unless she planned on never seeing the artist again.

And she knew that she planned on seeing him again as soon as possible.

It was not the face slapping that she could not explain to Lisette Ray. It was the going back. It was all the nights that had not even happened yet. Those were the nights she could not explain.

Margot Berwin is the author of Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire and Scent of Darkness.

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